UNITED STATES AND BRAZIL NEW EPICENTERS OF COVID-19

As parts of Asia, Europe and Oceania begin to ease Covid-19 restrictions after a gradual decrease in cases and deaths, most countries in the Americas continue to experience quite the opposite since May as well as June.

As cases continue to increase at an alarming rate, it is clear that the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak that started in Asia, has now shifted from Europe to the Americas. The worrying trend however did not stop two of the worlds’ worst-affected countries in the continent, United States and Brazil to ease their restrictions and allow the resumption of economic activities. Cases continued to increase in the thousands on a daily basis despite seemingly to have plateaued in the last month. By 23 June, the US was already reaching 2.31 million confirmed cases and Brazil, 1.11 million. Confirmed deaths also passed 120,000 in the former and 51,000 in the later for the same day. Despite the stubbornly high figures, the governments in this country remain adamant that reopening measures must be carried out, raising a “second wave” warning by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Politically aligned right-wing governments, the two countries have shown similarities in the combat against Covid-19 that help, at least in part to explain the weak performance in overcoming the epidemic.

  • Presidents Trump and Bolsonaro have initially underestimated the disastrous potential of contamination. Brazil’s Bolsonaro still claims that media and the opposition overplay the damage caused by the virus. Similarly, President Trump also blamed the media for not putting a positive spin in the country’s fight against the outbreak.
  • States have taken the lead in fighting the spread. States within the mentioned countries and even cities with states, had different implemented policies and severity to curb the spread, which have proven to be inefficient due to lack of co-ordination.
  • With the exception of some states such as New York in the US and Pará in Brazil, no complete lockdown has been implemented in the countries, which led to low rates of social distancing.

Travel to both countries are not advisable at this moment. Most embassies recommend citizens not to travel or leave Brazil if possible. The United States has also closed its borders to incoming travelers who have been in Brazil on the previous 14 days of their arrival. For more information on restrictions and Covid-19 related content, access Safeture app and platforms including the recently launched openupforbusiness.com.

Travel to both countries are not advisable at this moment. Most embassies recommend citizens not to travel or leave Brazil if possible. The United States has also closed its borders to incoming travelers who have been in Brazil on the previous 14 days of their arrival. For more information on restrictions and Covid-19 related content, access Safeture app and platforms including the recently launched openupforbusiness.com.

As countries anticipate and prepare for a possible second wave of contamination, Brazil and the United States struggle to leave the first.

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VIOLENT CLASHES ON SINO-INDIAN BORDER UNDERSCORES TENSION BETWEEN TWO ASIAN GIANTS

The Sino-Indian border tension came to a blow as border troops clashed at the loose demarcation line, also known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). 

In the most serious escalation seen in 40 years, the fighting that occurred on 15 June took place approximately a month after a series of brawls in May due to overlapping claims at several areas on the disputed border. At least 20 casualties among Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number on the Chinese side were reported in the June incident. Subsequently, a large troop build-up reportedly took place along the Galwan Valley, with both sides continued to blame each another for overstepping the LAC. India has accused China of rapidly building infrastructure in the Sino-Indian border, making it a breach of the agreement made between the countries in 1962, when the first clash erupted. China rebuked the allegation and claimed that the Galwan Valley is on the Chinese side of the LAC.

Despite the disagreement, both sides concurred that the stand-off shall not be escalated further by ensuring peace and tranquility at high-level political negotiations. Despite this, many are skeptical whether restoring the said peace can be conveyed at the tactical level. Apart from diplomatic tension, the latest skirmish has also caused widespread anti-Chinese sentiments, triggering calls to boycott Chinese products and protests in India, which has been witnessing growing nationalistic sentiment under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On the other hand, public opinion among social media users in China largely believed that the aggression was initiated by Indian troops.

While it cannot be ruled out that tension could flare once again in the near-term, heading into an armed conflict is unlikely to be on top of the minds of officials from both sides as the priority remains combating the Covid-19 epidemic in their homelands. Instead, they would pursue ways to make de-escalation efforts work, as these powers are stepping up their global economic and geopolitical influence.

The Galwan Valley remains a potential flashpoint for further conflicts between China and India

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Airlines to resume operations amid cautious optimism for post-Covid travelling

Airlines around the world are expected to gradually resume operations as economies begin to reopen following Covid-19 lockdown measures previously. While some of them have done so in June, more will follow suit in July and they include Malaysia Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Finnair, Jeju Air, Brussels Airlines, Jet2, Copa Airlines and Blue Airlines, among others. Additionally, some of the airlines such as Air France, KLM, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and TAP Portugal, will also boost international flights from July.

Hajj pilgrimage to be limited amid Covid-19 outbreak

As the Eid al-Adha festival (Hajj) is due to take place between 28 July and 2 August, authorities have announced that the annual pilgrimage that sees the convergence of millions of Muslims in Mecca in the past will proceed but on a “very limited” scale. The Saudi government said only residents will be allowed in order to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Prior to this, concerns over another wave of infections have already led to some countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore cancelling plans to send pilgrims for the event. Elsewhere around the Muslim world, smaller-scale celebrations and congregational prayer ceremonies should still be expected at mosques or squares to mark the festival.

Asia gears up for peak of typhoon season

The month of July marks the beginning of the peak of the Pacific typhoon season in northeast and southeast Asia. Typically, countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, southern China, Taiwan, as well as Japan will bear the brunt of the typhoons. Travellers can expect high winds, storm surges, landslides as well as mobility issues in the event of a typhoon. In some remote regions, health issues could also emerge due to water-borne diseases and lack of medical infrastructures. The peak period usually lasts until mid-October.

Ebola resurfaces in Équateur province of D.R. Congo

An outbreak of Ebola has been reported in the Équateur province in D.R. Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) since early June. The outbreak centred in the city of Mbandaka with at least six confirmed deaths. Vaccination efforts have been launched while the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also dispatched a team to monitor the situation. Experts said there have been no known links between the latest outbreak with the ones in North Kivu and Ituri provinces two years ago.

Contributors

Adam Yusoff
Analyst Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Chan Cheong
Senior Analyst and Office Manager Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Deborah Sheps
Analyst Sao Paolo, Brazil

Ezza Omar
Analyst Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia